CDT Masterclass outputs on display at Energy Info Day

08 Oct 2018

UKERC hosted the CDT summer school, 9-11 July 2018, in conjunction with the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy storage. This capacity-building activity introduced students and researchers to new disciplines and concepts whilst also reinforcing the value of interdisciplinary skillsets.

Postgraduate students listening to the course introduction

Held at the Edgecliffe Campus, Sheffield University, the event involved 110 postgraduate students from the energy CDT programmes, including all the renewable energy technologies, nuclear fission and fusion, and oil and gas. This wide coverage of CDT attendees was achieved by engaging with CDT directors early in the development of the course, ensuring participation of students with a wide range of disciplines including engineering, social sciences, business, and the natural sciences.

Course outline

The course was structured around three core themes of policy, finance and law, all of which are cross-cutting and significant in the whole system. Course tutors were drawn from active and influential organisations with high-level stakeholders from finance – representing a major bank and sustainable and green investors, an energy law firm, and policy – represented by two officials from the European Commission.

Diverse course content enabled students to work in an interdisciplinary way, the aim being to give them a glimpse of the levers that influence what happens in energy, and to provide access to tutors who are leaders in the field, and could provide insights into potential future career paths.

Ross Taylor, Industry Director at Barclays PLC facilitates during the finance session

Connecting students with policy across Europe

UKERC HQ staff, notably, Dr Mike Weston, Dr William Burns, Amber Sharick, and our collaborator Lucy Aspinall, spent time developing ideas for the course with European Commission energy officials Brendan Devlin and Féilim O’Connor, hitting upon a problem that mattered to the European Commission officials, resonated with UKERC’s objectives, and was appropriate given the knowledge and interests of the students.

Working with the Commission naturally plugged UKERC into a wider project looking at decarbonisation of the EU’s 2,700 islands, and a network the European Commission had established with like-minded individuals involved in island decarbonisation policy in multiple member states, including UK (Scotland), Greece, and Sweden.

For this component of the course, students were split into groups to take part in the challenging and collaborative ‘Energy Islands’ exercise. They were given four hours to brainstorm potential solutions to decarbonising the EU’s islands; ideas were developed into posters and once complete, participants voted for the winning ideas – which included smart demand-side management, retro-fitting a bridge with turbines, and a hydrogen scheme for the Scottish Hebrides.

Energy Islands poster on display at Energy Info Day, 2018

The success of this activity is clear – the European Commission are interested in talking further about the activity with the possibility of developing it for use in other European research contexts. The winning ideas were also developed into posters and displayed during a forum on island decarbonisation as part of the Horizon 2020 Energy info day, Brussels, 5th October. 

Tutor and student feedback

Feedback from both the tutors and students was particularly positive. Students reported that the course gave them new perspectives and changed their opinions to the benefit of their studies. Whilst the tutors reported that the activity was particularly valuable both for their own motivations but also for the benefit of the students.

Jennifer Spragg, EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Bioenergy, University of Leeds.

The more I learn about energy systems, I learn how important it is to collaborate. The energy challenge is something that needs to be solved from all sorts of different angles it is not purely a technical challenge it is about working together with economists, politicians and society


Robert Abernethy, EPSRC CDT in the Science and Technology of Fusion Energy, University of Oxford

I found the Masterclass a great success. Not only were there networking opportunities aplenty, which may develop into future working relationships, but I learned a vast amount about the many different areas that require work as we progress towards a sustainable energy system. Additionally, the event was very enjoyable and inspiring for my future career.

Brendan Devlin, Advisor in the Directorate General for Energy of the European Commission:

What’s unique in this scenario is that we have come to Sheffield to find out if the students can generate ideas, I think we will get two or three actionable ideas that we can implement on islands for the future. That’s what’s nice about this process, you can take an idea from the students and implement it in reality on an island somewhere in the European Union – it’s a great initiative.

Elvira Laneborg, Sustainability Strategist, Mörbylånga, municipality of Öland, Sweden:

I hope that this can lead to broader collaboration between universities and students throughout Europe. Use student talents – young researchers and put them together with stakeholders and politicians that make decisions about future society.

It is very important that we speak to young people as they are the future, and the future leaders of energy.

There are lots of opportunities for students to work with research and innovation projects in the Europeans Union's Horizon 2020 funding framework.  Find out more here.

Watch the video and read a blog about the Masterclass by Robert Abernethy, a Fusion CDT student at the University of Oxford.

Special thanks to the core delivery team:
  • Core project leads: Dr William Burns (UKERC), Sharon Brown (University of Sheffield), Lucy Aspinall
  • UKERC: Dr Mike Weston, Amber Sharick, Freya Stanley-Price, Jessica Bays, Diana Batista
  • University of Sheffield: Prof Peter Hall, Matthew Billson
  • UKRI EPSRC: Dr Andrew Macdonell
  • Tutors: Ross Taylor (Barclays); Brendan Devlin (European Commission), Féilim O’Connor (European Commission); Ian Temperton (Independent); Julia Dreblow-Riches (SRI Services); Rory Connor (King & Spalding); Prof Raphael Heffron (University of Dundee); Dr Gloria Alvarez (University of Aberdeen); Alexis Chatzimpiros (Samsø Energy Academy); Gareth Davies (Aquatera); Valia Iliopoulou (Network of Sustainable Greek Islands – DAFNI); Elvira Laneborg (Mörbylånga, municipality of Öland, Sweden); Tommy Lindström (Energy Agency for southeast Sweden); Dr Alasdair MacLeod (Lews Castle College UHI); Rach Maggs; Andrew Halfacre